Getting Started Guides

The Getting Started Guides can be accessed at http://digitalcurationexchange.org/guides. In order to simplify the process of managing and preserving digital collections, we have broken digital curation activities into a set of high-level functions: Prepare, Identify, Select, Get, Store, Protect, Manage, and Provide.

1. Prepare - Preparing for digital curation activities involves having a firm understanding of associated concepts, terminology, challenges, supporting activities, and available resources (including tools). You'll need to have a clear view of the monetary, human, and technological resources you need and what you have available. It can be beneficial to assess needs and resources and to prepare policies for each part of your digital curation workflow.

2. Identify - An important part of managing your digital collections is identifying what you'll be working with. This includes identifying what digital content you have, what you are already preserving, and what content you may be acquiring. You should also characterize the materials for which you're responsible and assess the risks associated with the materials.

3. Select - Selection is determining what subsets of all possible digital information should be kept, how long they should be kept, and where they should be kept. This will often - though not always - involve determination of what materials warrant transfer to a preservation environment (e.g. from the original creation environment and into an a managed repository). As part of this process, you should assess your institutional and departmental mission statements and determine if the content in question fits within your mission. You will also need to determine if the content has value to your institution, if it's feasible to preserve the content, and if you can provide reliable access of the content to your users. Once you have determined what content you will accept and process, document the selection choices you have made as well as who is permitted access to the content.

4. Get - If you're responsible for materials that someone else has created, you must often get copies of the materials in order to subject them to further curatorial treatment (e.g. transformations, metadata extraction, packaging). Getting materials can include capturing data at the source, pre-planned network transfers, extraction from physical media, or various forms of remote harvesting.

5. Store - Whether you're responsible for the custody of materials or you're advising someone else who is responsible for the custody, it will be beneficial for you to understand and evaluate various options for storing the materials. When you're planning for the storage of digital content, you should consider costs, storage capacity (number of bytes), reliability, availability, access speed, level of expertise necessary, partners you have or may want to work with, and the services that you want to build from what you have stored. Also remember that in order to have accessible, sustainable digital content, you will need to create and store various kinds of metadata associated with the digital content.

6. Protect - It is necessary to take active measures to protect digital content from loss that can take the form of changes, obsolescence, inappropriate access, and disasters. One of the first lines of defense is to make multiple copies of content and store them in different locations. It is also important to monitor content for inadvertent or deliberate changes by performing checksum procedures that can detect any changes to digital objects. Obsolescence can be avoided by preemptively developing policies to address this issue. These policies can involve choosing to collect only content in preservation friendly file formats, planning to migrate content to viable file formats as technology changes, and/or planning to use emulation software to provide access to content over time. You should also prepare a policies for both technological and physical disaster preparedness.

7. Manage - Because the landscape of digital content is continually shifting, it requires constant, active management. Being responsible for a collection of digital content involves the continued management of not just the technology used to store, preserve, and provide access, but also the monetary and human resources. Managing digital collections requires strong project management skills. It requires the ability to manage relationships with multiple stakeholders including end users, creators, actors within your own institution and other institutions. As technology changes, it is important to stay abreast of these changes and to be able to adopt new approaches and workflows as necessary.

8. Provide - The primary purpose of most digital collections is to provide access to the information in the collection. In order to provide access, you must determine how digital content will be made accessible and who will be allowed to access it. In order to best provide access to users, it is important that you understand the needs of the users and their preferred methods for accessing the content you provide. You will also have to take measures to ensure that the content you provide adheres to appropriate access restrictions, including intellectual property, confidentiality, and privacy.